1. Reasons for a newsletter:
It is hoped that on a monthly or bi – monthly basis a newsletter will go out from the Diocesan office here in Kokstad.
The idea is to inform the Priests, religious and the leaders of the Diocese about note-worthy events. Through a newsletter it is hoped that we will share in the life and concerns of the diocese more fully. It is also an opportunity to remind people of events of common interest. Continually letters and information of all kinds comes to the Bishop here in Kokstad and the newsletter will be a means by which this information can reach some of the people of the Diocese. Reading the newsletter will also help you to become more aware of the common concerns of the Diocese, our problems, the challenges we face.
2. General Meeting in Kokstad on 21st March 1994.
A Meeting of the Bishop, Priests and Brothers of the Diocese was held on the 21st March to consider some of the needs of the Diocese in the years ahead. Fifteen peculiar needs of the Diocese were listed, and from these five priorities were selected. The five priorities underlined by the meeting for the Diocese were:
b) Diocesan vocations.
c) Formation of laity for ministry.
d) We need a diocesan vision and a diocesan policy.
e) We need pastoral structures in the Parish and the Diocese, to bring the laity and the religious into the planning and servicing of our church.
The Diocese will have to take urgent steps to meet these grave needs.
It was decided at the Councillors meeting in Kokstad to print 5 000 new Xhosa catechism books. While it is seen that this book with its questions and answers is not the ideal catechism at least it is something we can immediately put into the hands of the teachers. It was further decided to set up a catechetical community to plan the future of our catechetical programme in the Diocese. Father Bill Lovett was appointed as Convenor with Sister Natalia and Sister Callista of the Daughters of Charity as members of the committee. It is also hoped that Sister Dionys and Father Egbert and Sister Senan will act as advisors to the committee. This committee will try and examine the catechetical situation in the Diocese and make recommendations to help us to form our teachers better,to give them material in hand, and to evaluate our catechetical programmes in the life and knowledge of the children. It is admitted that this is a long term project but we must begin to ensure that our children receive the faith in which we glory.
A Vocation committee was established by the Council. Father Rogers Sihlobo was appointed as Convenor with Father Arturo and Sister Natalia as members. It is hoped that Father Peter Wilson and members of the other religous congregations in the Diocese will act as advisors to the committee. This committee will try and examine the question of vocations, particularly to the Diocesan priesthood in this Diocese. Hopefully they will be able to plan seminars and workshops and youth meetings where people will be made aware of the need of vocations, and the nature of vocation itself.
A number of young men have expressed keen interest in becoming Diocesan priests for Kokstad. Already three of them are living with Father Sihlobo in Bizana. There, there will be a programme of prayer, pastoral work and community life to help prepare them for the Seminaries. Among them we are happy to welcome Augustin Njovane, who comes from Lusikisiki. He completed his studies with a B.Th degree in St John Vianney Seminary in 1992 and has offered to join his home Diocese of Kokstad. Augustin is working with Father Rodgers in Bizana, helping in the Parish ministry.
5. Sacred Heart Society.
Father Peter has been appointed as the Spiritual Director for the Society of the Sacred Heart in the Diocese. We thank Father Lucas Bambezela for all his work for this Society during his years in Flagstaff. We wish Peter every success in forming the members of this Society in the Diocese.
6. May, the month of prayer for vocations.
I often noticed during my time as Rector in St John Vianney Seminary an information work in general in South Africa, that many of the young religious and priests came to their vocation through societies of our Lady. And so I am asking all of you to make this month of May, a month of prayer for vocations to the Diocese and to religious life. We were not able to observe the days set aside by the Pope in March as vocation day, but let us make Pentecost Sunday the 22nd May as our special day for prayer for vocations. The prayer which the Holy Father suggested is as follows;
“Let us pray, Oh Holy Family of Nazareth, community of love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, model an ideal of every Christain family, to you we entrust our families.
Open the heart of every family to the faith, to welcome in the word of God, to Christain witness, so that it become a source of new and holy vocations. Touch the hearts of parents, so that with prompt charity, wise care and loving devotion be for their sons and daughters sure guides towards spiritual and eternal values.
Stir up in the hearts of young people a right conscience and a free will, so the growing in wisdom age and grace they might welcome generously the gift of a divine vocation.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that all of us contemplating and imatating the Assidous prayer, generous obedience, dignified poverty, and virginal purity lived out in your midst, we might set about fulfilling the will of God and accompanying with far sighted sensitivity those among us who are called to follow more closely the Lord Jesus, who has given himself for us. Amen”
7. Service of the 7 last words.
On Good Friday morning Father Rodgers Sihlobo organised a service of the 7 last words in his Parish of Bizana. The idea is to take the words of Jesus one by one and to read scripture text which relate to that word. These are followed by hymns and prayers and by a sermon which explains the significance of these words in the Lord”s Passion.
We heard confessions for eight hours!
8. Year of the Family, 1994.
In his letter for the Year of the Family the Pope writes
“The church joyfully welcomes the decision of the United Nations organisation to declare 1994 the International Year of the Family”. This initiative makes it clear how fundemental the question of the family is for the members states of the United Nations. If the Church wishes to take part in this initiative, it is because she herself has been sent by Christ to all the Nations. I hope in the end of May to summarise very briefly the Popes very long letter for this the Year of the Family and to send it out to the individual Parishes. It is obvious that the Family in the world today is under severe pressure. Everyone of us is very aware that in our own Parishes all over the Diocese among our friends and among the people among whom we work their are severe pressures on their family life. The family is the domestic church, the basic unit of society and we must think together how to evangelise and strengthen it.
I hope later in the year to summarise the Pope’s letter and to send it out to the individual Parishes.
As we are a family, a community, a church it is very important that we in Kokstad remember the significant members of this family who have laboured here in the past and laid the foundations of our Church. In order to better remember those who have died and have laboured in this Diocese over the years I would like to put together a Diocesan Necrology. And so I would like to get the names of all Priests, Brothers, Sisters and Leading Catecists who have worked in this Diocese over the years. I would like to get their names with the name of the Parish where they worked or convent, with also the day of their death. We will then put together a little booklet which will be distributed to all the Churches of the Diocese so that people could remember these our ancestors in the faith when they come to pray. I ask all the Sisters congregations and the Parish priests to help me.
It is obvious as one travels anywhere in the Diocese that the number of youth in our area is enormous. One does not have to go far in the Kokstad area to know that 50% of the population here as elsewhere in Africa is under 15 years of age. And so we must give particular emphasise to the Apostolate for youth. I wish to thank all those who have laboured over the years and continued to labour to reach the youth in our schools, in our churches and in our youth clubs. Again I hope to hear from people with ideas how we can put together a programme that will reach the youth in their needs. As this year proceeds we hope to formulate a programme by which we can bring the church and the word of the gospel into the lives of our youth. We hope to be able to bring to them people who can guide them in the particular problems of their life. In a particular way I would ask those who can help to establish church organisations for the junior youth. By that I mean young people between the ages of 9 and 15. It is often in these years that a young person becomes aware of a call. It is in these years, if the young people get encouragement, affirmation and instruction that they emerge as leaders. The leaders in parishes are often people who found their voice, their charism in groups like the Junior Legion etc.
11. Building Committee.
It was established at the recent Diocesan Council meeting to establish a building committee which will access and advise on all building plans and needs in the Diocese. The convenor of this committee will be Father Tom Byrne v.g.and members will be Brother Eric and Mr Jack Davies. It is hoped that as time goes by this committee working with the local priests, the finance committee of the Parish and the Parish Council will facilitate the establishment of adequate buildings throughout the Diocese. They will also advise on sites, plans, finance e.t.c.
12. General Election.
You have heard a million times by now that on the 27th April this year we will have our general election. I am sending out short pastoral letter encouraging catholics of the Diocese to participate fully in this political process. I ask that this letter be brought to the attention of the people. It was suggested by the South African Catholic Bishops conference that each Bishop issue a short letter on the occasion of this our first universal general election.
13. Charism Mass, March 30th.
It was wonderful to see many people present at the Mass of the charism on Wednesday morning at the Cathedral in Kokstad. I think this is a very important Mass in that in a special way it celebrates the Priesthood. I encouraged the Priests that in the years ahead that they will bring as many laity as possible to this Mass, for it is a Mass in which the people are made aware of their Priests and their needs. It is a Mass in which the Priests renew their commitment to the Church.
14. Requests for Confirmation.
As there is nobody in these months working in Tabankulu as Priest I go out there myself on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. On the other Sundays I will be free to go to any Parish where there is a particular service or confirmation or retreat.
I think retreats are an extemely important part of the life of all Christain people. I hope as time goes by that we will establish a whole programme of retreats so that in some way or another all our christain people each year will have an opportunity for some spiritual reflection. It maybe only for a day but it is important that all groups should have some time to reflect on their vocation and to listen to God in more depth. Retreats are ideal before reception of any of the Sacraments, for example before 1st confession, before 1st Holy communion, before confirmation. Retreats are essential to for all the societies of the Diocese and each one should attempt to have a serious retreat each year. We the Bishop and Priest should make every effort to facilitate these possiblities. But beyond that we need to think of the need of teachers, nurses and any other vocational groups in the Diocese. Study days or prayer days would be moments of particular significance for these people. Father Roger Sihlobo and Augustin Njovane are keen to become involved in this Apostolate and I’m sure if they are free will make themselves available to help the people in these particular needs.
16. Visits to Parishes.
Beyond Pastoral visitation and confirmation I would hope to get out to many of the smaller stations of these Diocese over the years ahead. I know this is more or less impossible at week-ends at the moment but later I hope to be able to go Sundays. But even now I would like to go on a week-day to visit a Station which is not generally visited by a Bishop. I would like to spend the day there praying with the people, preaching and celebrating the Eucharist with them.
17. Collections and statistics.
Let me remind all the Pastors to send into Kokstad as soon as possible now the Lentan. I hope too, that the Parish statistics can be got into this office as soon as possilbe as we must send them to Rome by the end of April.
18. The Synod for Africa.
On April the 10th the Holy Father in a Special Mass opened the assembly, the Synod of African Bishops. This is a very important event in the life of the Church in Africa. I hope that we can make the people aware that this event is taking place in spite of the general elections and other events. I hope too that we can encourage the people to pray and to show interest and to await news from this African Synod. According to the various working papers that I have come accross there seems to be five main themes at this Synod;
a) Evangelisation, Proclamation of the gospel. Because of the rapid changes in society, not least here in Africa itself there is a continual need for christains ourselves to be continuously evangelised. We continually need to discover the meaning of the gospel for life in African today.
b) Inculturation. The theology of inculturation is nowadays Univerally recognised as something necessary and urgent. It has its theological foundations in the mystery of the incarnation when son of God became in all fullness the son of man. Today we know through the mystery of the incarnation that faith and culture have to contract a kind of marriage which has to bear evangalised culture or an inculturated gospel in such a way as to give birth to an African christianity in Africa.
c) Dialogue. The Churches wishes to enter into this problem of dialogue to establish an openess of heart among people to create an ever deeper communion and to fulfill the unity of the human family according to Gods original plan. This dialogue will of course involve dialogue with other christian churches. It has always been a scandal that the christian message came to Africa as a divided message. The dialogue must also take place with African tradition religion which is today recognised as a partner in the religious life of the african soul.
d) Justice and peace. The situation concerning justice and peace is very serious in Africa of today; social injustice, political instability, corruption wars, natural disasters, bad administrtion of public goods, epademic diseases are all part unfortunately of the experience of life of so many people in Africa. The church has played a decisive role in the recent move towards democracy in many parts of Africa. And while we seem multi-party democracy emerging even in South Africa itself we must remember that democracy is not far into Africa. The difference is that multi party democracy stresses opposition and conflict as guiding principal while democracy in traditional Africa stresses consensus as a guiding principal of discussions. The dialogue must not only take place in politics but also on the extremely important question of the situation of women. African women has to be liberated in a particular way.
e) Means of social communication. The church cannot do without the modern means of social communication, radio, TV, video and press. This is all the more necessary since Islam is investing massively in the field of Mass media in order to propagate its religion. We have to make a great effort to penetrate these media.
19. Small development projects.
There are monies available for small development projects in this Diocese. But to avail of this finance we must make proper application. I have asked Brother Eric from Mount Frere to act as overseer of these projects. There is money available for these and with proper application we can help our people to help themselves in many wonderful ways.
20. Catholic Universities – Students.
Sister Teodula, who works at Unitra in Umtata has asked that we send her the names of Catholic students who are studying at that University. This will facilitate Sister and the Chaplains to make contact with them.
21. Daniel Comboni.
We wish to congratulate the Comboni Fathers on the announcement that the Holy Father will soon beatify Daniel Comboni the founder of the congregation. Here was a man who dedicated his life to the Mission particularly the Mission of the Church in Africa. Also we must congratulate them on the fact that this year is the 70th anniversary of their 1st arrival in South Africa.